US-European Relations After Bush
Henry Kissinger‘s column today makes some important observations about three major trends in international relations that will shape the debate in coming decades. There’s not much I can add to his analysis but I wanted to draw especial attention to this observation:
Conventional wisdom holds that disenchantment with President Bush’s alleged unilateralism is at the heart of European-American disagreements. But it will become apparent soon after the change of administrations that the principal difference between the two sides of the Atlantic is that America is still a traditional nation-state whose people respond to calls for sacrifices on behalf of a much wider definition of the national interest than Europe’s definition.
Although I’m not sure Americans are much interested in sacrifice these days, either, Kissinger’s right that there are fundamental attitudinal differences between the United States and “Old Europe”* that won’t go away with the Bush administration. We do indeed share with the Brits a more global sense of our national interests and are less reluctant to both use military power but, more importantly, spend our treasure maintaining a substantial expeditionary capability.
Nor, incidentally, are US-European relations as bad as conventional wisdom would have it. Aside from the dispute over the war in Iraq, the issues which divide us are overstated and our commonality of interests vastly understated. At the NATO summit in Bucharest last week, there was widespread consensus on most issues, notably going forward with missile defense and eastward expansion of the Alliance. President Bush was rebuffed on membership action plans for Ukraine and Georgia but this was an issue that split Old Europe as well; and even there, the members agreed that those countries would be admitted at some unspecified date, with the issue to be revisited in December.
*Note: I don’t use this term derisively. Whatever Don Rumsfeld’s intentions with that coinage, it’s a very useful shorthand for distinguishing the traditional Western European states from the emerging democracies further east.